Honoring the American Heroine: The Story of General Ann E. Dunwoody

Mar 24, 2017

Imagine becoming a world-class leader among other military leaders, both male and female. The best leaders are those who first learn how to lead themselves. A retired four-star Army General, Ann Dunwoody has been known as one of those leaders who first learned how to lead herself and made history.

General Ann E. Dunwoody is the first woman to achieve a four-star officer rank in the Army and in U.S. military service history. She is the fourth generation in her family to serve in the Army and the third to achieve the rank of flag officer.  

Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody was born on January 14, 1953 in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and grew up in a military family. Her great-grandfather was Brig. Gen. Henry Harrison Chase Dunwoody and a graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Both her grandfather and father are West Point graduates. Her father is a two-time Purple Heart recipient and recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for valor during his service in World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War.

Dunwoody graduated from the Allied Powers Europe American High School in Belgium. She received her Bachelor’s degree in physical education from the State University of New York-Cortlandt. Before she joined the military, Dunwoody did not have much interest in the military and desired to become a physical education teacher. After realizing that the Army’s values were shared with her own values, she decided to followed in her family’s Army boot steps.

During her undergraduate education, she attended a four-week Army introductory program that could be continued with an 11-week Women’s Officer Orientation Course, and later a two-year commitment with the Army. She made that commitment and was directly commissioned into the Women’s Army Corps.  

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After completing her undergraduate degree, Dunwoody entered the Quartermaster Corps, which offered her the opportunity to jump out of airplanes and become a Parachute Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. She served as a Quartermaster Corps Officer for more than 30 years.  

Dunwoody received her Master of Science in Logistics Management from the Florida Institute of Technology and Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.  

Once she realized how much she enjoyed the Army life, Dunwoody continued to serve after her commission. Her first assignment was as a platoon leader with the 226th Maintenance Company in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where she later commanded the Company. She became the first female battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne Division and first female general at Fort Bragg during the Gulf War. She also continued to serve in other assignments at Fort Drum, N.Y., Military Traffic Management Command/Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in Alexandria, VA, and the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, VA.

One of Dunwoody’s major accomplishments was managing the Army’s largest global logistics command in history, the Army Materiel Command (AMC) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which employs more than 69,000 employees across all 50 states and 145 countries. Along with overseeing the AMC, she managed a budget of $60 billion and was responsible for approximately $70 billion in service contracts. She led the Army’s transformation of logistics organizations, where she was responsible for installation and contingency contracting, research and development, supply chain management, foreign military sales and other duties. Dunwoody also supported the largest deployment and redeployment of U.S. forces since World War II.   

In 2008, Dunwoody was nominated by former President George W. Bush as a four-star Army General. Her promotion to four-star Army General began at the Pentagon. Both Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made the introductory speeches at her promotion ceremony on November 12, 2008.

After nearly 38 years of service, Dunwoody retired from the Army in 2012. In 2015, she released her book, A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America’s First Female Four-Star General. Her book highlights leadership lessons and applications she acquired during her career with the Army from Second Lieutenant to four-star General.

Dunwoody accomplished many “firsts” prior to her installment as a four-star Army General. In 1992, she became the first woman to command a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division. She also became Fort Bragg’s first female General in 2000. In 2004, she became the first woman to command the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia. Later, in 2005, she became the first three-star Army General since Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy, the former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, who retired in 2000.  

Dunwoody received many accomplishments during and after her highly decorated military career. She received the 2001 Distinguished Alumni for SUNY-Cortlandt, the 2004 National Defense Transportation Association’s DoD Distinguished Service Award, and the 2007 Military Order of the World Wars Distinguished Service Award. In 2011, she received the National Collegiate Athletic Association Theodore Roosevelt Award, the NCAA’s highest honor. She was named USO Woman of the Year in 2012 and one of the 2013 Power Women by New York MOVES Magazine. She was selected to be the 2013 Grand Marshall for the Veterans Day parade in New York City.

She currently serves on the board of directors for Logistics Management Institute (LMI), Republic Services, and L-3 Communications.

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The Purple Heart Foundation remains committed to helping all male and female active-duty military and veterans in many different ways, including issues that are specific to women. Nearly 90% of all donations received fund programs that help women, the National Scholarship Program, National Service Officers Program, as well as other rehabilitative and recreational programs. It is the goal of The Purple Heart Foundation to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front as smooth as possible for our men and women in uniform.

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Category: Blog